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Americans say the pay gap for black women is real—just not at their company

Americans say the pay gap for black women is real—just not at their company

Women’s Equal Pay day comes in April to represent the fact that women must work four months into the year to make the equivalent of what a man would have made in the last year. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day comes a full four months later—a stark, tangible reminder that black women are paid on average 38% less than white men.

Still, our research shows that more than one in three Americans are unaware of the gap or underestimate it, and even more are in the dark when it comes to the discrepancy between black and white women’s pay.

The first step to addressing any problem is understanding it. So, SurveyMonkey and Lean In, in partnership with the National Urban League, surveyed more than 5,000 Americans about their understanding and perception of the pay gap between black women and white men. Here’s what we’ve found.

We can do better on awareness

The majority of Americans (62%) are aware of the pay inequity between black women and white men. Unsurprisingly, black women are most likely to be aware of the pay gap with fully 80% aware that they make less than white men.

Fortunately, mostly Americans are not resorting to negative stereotypes to explain this pay gap, and instead correctly recognize that structural and institutional prejudice are why pay gap exists. Virtually none think it is due to black women working less hard. What are the top factors people say contribute to the gap?

  • Racism (41%)
  • Sexism (40%)
  • Unconscious bias (40%)
  • Few black women in leadership (39%)

Not in my workplace

Despite general awareness of the problem, employed Americans refuse to believe that it’s happening in their own backyard: Six in ten say it isn’t an issue at their workplace. When it comes to their own workplace, even black women are more likely to say that no pay gap exists.

Even more problematically, hiring managers, presumably the people who have the opportunity to change this trend, are less likely to perceive a gap in their own workplace. Workers who make hiring decisions are more likely to say that black women at their organization make just as much money as white men (63% vs 57% who aren’t involved in hiring decisions). They are also less likely to say it’s extremely or very unfair that this gap exists (68% vs 74%).

On the bright side, people say they think employers are prioritizing the issue. About four in 10 (38%) of workers say racial diversity is a high priority at their company and about as many (33%) say gender diversity is a high priority at their company. With this prioritization, hopefully resources will follow, and companies will be able to chip away at the pay gap between black women and white men.

That’s why Lean In has launched a campaign to bring awareness to the impact that 38% less has on black women’s lives. They have partnered with businesses across the country to remind their customers that this gap exists and to raise money to contribute to women and families in need.

What can companies do?

Many companies are moving in the right direction by prioritizing diversity, but for all employees to be at their best they need to feel that they are respected, valued, and a good fit at the company. That’s why prioritizing inclusion should come hand in hand with diversity.

An inclusive company culture allows employees to feel comfortable learning from each other, giving and receiving feedback, and speaking up when something is amiss. An inclusive culture helps retain employees and fosters an environment where employees care about equality of pay between employees—and don’t turn a blind eye to the problem.

How do you build an inclusive culture at your company? Start by measuring. Using our free, easy-to-use survey template, you can determine where work needs to be done to make all employees feel included and valued.

How inclusive is your workplace?
Build a workforce that lasts. Start measuring inclusion at your company with SurveyMonkey’s free, easy-to-use survey template.
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Methodology: For this partnership, two SurveyMonkey/Lean In online polls were conducted among a national sample of adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older. The first was conducted June 29-July 4, 2018 among 2,950 adults and the second was conducted July 13-18, 2018 among 4,217 adults. The modeled error estimate for both surveys is +/- 2 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age eighteen and over.